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Do Pitbulls’ Jaws Lock When They Bite? Vet-Reviewed Facts and FAQs

Written by: Cassidy Sutton

Last Updated on April 5, 2024 by Dogster Team

Blue Nose Pitbull

Do Pitbulls’ Jaws Lock When They Bite? Vet-Reviewed Facts and FAQs


Dr. Athena Gaffud Photo


Dr. Athena Gaffud

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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No, Pitbulls do not lock their jaws when they bite! It’s commonly believed that Pitbulls, or American Staffordshire Terriers, can lock their jaws when biting down on something. However, this is only a myth. Lockjaw is a rare condition caused by tetanus bacteria that prevents a dog from either opening or closing their mouth.

In this post, we dive deeper into how this myth originated and general facts about the Pitbull bite.


The Lockjaw Myth: Where Did It Originate?

The myth that a Pitbull can lock their jaw when biting something stems from the bias that the breed is more vicious than other breeds. The Pitbull is indeed one of the stronger, more muscular dogs. Their strength is one of the reasons that people have abused them for bloodbath sports.

Even so, Pitbulls are just as gentle as they are strong.

The only thing that can cause a Pitbull to experience lockjaw is a tetanus infection.1 So, if a dog has lockjaw, it’s not because they’re vicious—they’re simply sick.

blue nose pit bull dog playing
Image Credit: Diego Thomazini, Shutterstock

Why Are Pitbulls So Strong?

So, why in the world are Pitbulls more muscular than other breeds?

Genetics and selective breeding have made the Pitbull what they are today. All bull-type terrier dogs trace their ancestry back to the Bulldog of 200 years ago. This type of dog was much fiercer and more brutish than the one we know today.

For centuries in Great Britain, bully breeds (and other dog breeds) were bred specifically for blood sports. These dogs were released to fight a staked bear or bull, and the crowd would bet on the outcome.

Breeders would purposefully create muscular dogs willing to take on any animal, big or small. This strength and hunting desire has been passed down to all the bully breeds. However, this doesn’t make the Pitbull any less loving or gentle. It just means they’ve had a troubled past.

Several dog breeds throughout history have fought for blood and have found their place in families. But due to the Pitbull’s strength, improper management, and continued abuse, some laws have forbidden the breed in certain areas. 2

Just How Strong Is a Pitbull’s Bite?

Measuring a dog’s bite force is quite a challenge, so it’s difficult to produce accurate results. Scientists have determined that the larger the dog and head and the wider the jaw, the higher the bite force.3

After careful calculation, scientists have estimated that the average Pitbull’s bite force measures 235 PSI. Does this make them the strongest dog with the worst bite? Not even close.

The dog breed with the strongest bite is a Turkish breed called the Kengal. They measure 743 PSI. To put this into comparison, a lion has a bite force of 650 PSI.

pitbull playing in an open field
Image Credit: Diego Thomazini, Shutterstock

Getting Your Pitbull to Release Their Bite

You shouldn’t interfere with a dog fight because you could walk away with serious injuries. But in the moment, you likely want to try your best to prevent as much damage as possible.

The best way to release your Pitbull’s bite is by training your dog to release it on command.

In more serious circumstances, a blow horn can scare your dog or another dog trying to start a fight. It can also signal to someone for help.


Summing Up

Pitbulls have had a rough past. Their strength has been abused for years, and unfortunately, the bias still prevails. But that doesn’t mean they can do things with their jaws that other dogs can’t.

With the help of science, we’ve learned they don’t come close to having the strongest bite force. This means Pitbulls are (and always were) loving, gentle creatures with a high prey drive. They’re really no different from any other dog.

Featured Image Credit: Diego Thomazini, Shutterstock

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